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String of exits draws concern

UI hospitals’ chief to stay, calls concerns natural but unfounded

Diane Heldt

The Gazette

January 27, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

  IOWA CITY — University Hospitals Director and Chief Executive Officer Donna Katen- Bahensky said Friday she has no plans to leave amid concerns some hospital employees have about recent departures of top administrators.

  ‘‘I love’’ University Hospitals, she said in a Gazette interview. ‘‘These are wonderful people.’’ But Katen-Bahensky, director since August 2002, said she knows concerns exist at the University of Iowa about the turnover. She said she thinks staff concern is more about keeping positive momentum going at the UI’s teaching hospital than about losing specific people.

  ‘‘ People are thinking, ‘ We are on such a roll. Please tell us we’ll be able to keep doing it,’ ’’ she said. ‘‘The mood is one of a lot of communication. People want assurance.’’ The UI announced this week that Linda Everett, associate director, chief nursing officer and director of Nursing Services and Patient Care, will leave in March, and that Dan Rieber, interim chief financial officer and director of finance, will leave Feb. 16.

  Administrative losses last fall included Chief Operating Officer Ann Madden Rice and Chief Financial Officer Anthony DeFurio. Several faculty members attending a faculty meeting this week talked about the hospital turnover, wondering who might be next.

  University Hospitals employee and UI Staff Council President Mary Greer said the changes are a concern, but that Katen-Bahensky has done a good job keeping employees informed.

  ‘‘When we see a flurry of resignations, people moving on, I think it is very natural for people to say ‘Oh, boy, who’s next?’ ’’ Greer said.

  ‘‘I can’t think of a time when we’ve had so many vacancies at the top. But to be honest, it’s still day-to-day business.’’

  University Hospitals Senior Associate Director John Brandecker conceded a slight feeling of loss exists about the departures but that people realize turnover can be common in academic medicine.

  State Regent Amir Arbisser, a Davenport doctor and regents’ hospital committee member, said the administrative losses are a concern. Faculty and staff often ask him if the regents’ governance of the hospital is an issue when that happens.

  ‘‘I think that’s a question that keeps coming up,’’ Arbisser said.

  ‘‘When you have top-flight administrators or world-class physicians and professors . . . they deserve to be treated with a lot of respect and appreciation.’’

  The situation is temporary, Katen-Bahensky said.

  She compared the recent departures to a stretch in 2004 when seven of the hospital’s 19 health care departments were without permanent leaders. Now those departments are growing, led by strong leaders, she said.

  Most important, she said, other people have come forward to help when the departures are announced.

  ‘‘I am confident people will pick up the ball and run with it and they already have,’’ she said.

  ‘‘We have a tremendous amount of talent and depth at every level."

Interim appointment

Heidi Nobiling will be University Hospitals’ interim chief nursing officer, UI Hospitals Director and CEO Donna Katen-Bahensky said Friday. Nobiling is senior associate director for intensive and speciality services in the nursing department.